An odd piece of news arriving today is that Jim Messina, officially Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, is going to be joining the campaign apparatus of the British Conservative Party, which will face a general election at some point between now and May of 2015.
There is obviously no formal rule barring political operatives associated with a center-left party in one country from going to work for a center-right party somewhere else. But it is kind of like the informal rule in the practice of labor law wherein you are either a “union” or “management” attorney for life, or if not for life, then until you burn bridges once and for all by changing sides. It generally isn’t done, particularly in countries as close politically and culturally as the U.S. and the U.K. I suppose Messina could have gone to work for the Lib Dems, the Tories’ coalition partner but still historically a left-of-center party, without raising as many eyebrows. But signing up with the Party of Margaret Thatcher? Not the same thing at all.
It’s true that the Democratic Party in this country is in important ways closer in policy positions to many European (or Canadian) conservative parties than is the GOP, with its horror of “socialized health care” and legal abortion and firearms regulations. But it’s not like Ed Milliband’s Labour Party is a cabal of Trotskyists or anything. The interesting thing is that Messina is going to stay right here and advise the Tories from afar, at least for now, which means he could well be involved in Democratic campaigns in the U.S. in a big way. But he might want to come up with a better excuse than “they pay really well” to justify his Tory contract if he intends to be a player on both sides of the mythical center as well as both sides of the Atlantic.